£86m investment to accelerate UK development of super turbines

Development of the world’s most advanced wind turbine blade and drive train testing assets set to deliver major boost to UK growth from offshore wind.

Ambitious plans to keep the UK at the forefront of technology development in offshore wind have been given the green light today (14 May 2024).

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will provide £85.6 million of capital funding for the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult.

The funding will help expand and upgrade its testing facilities and enable the evolution of the next generation of wind turbines in the UK.

Reduced risk and enhanced reliability

The late-stage research and development facilities will be designed for the testing of blades up to 150 metres and drive trains up to 23 megawatts (MW).

Combined with ORE Catapult’s extensive expertise in test and demonstration, the facilities will ensure that turbine manufacturers can accelerate their technology development in the UK with reduced risk and enhanced reliability for a new wave of larger, more efficient machines.

Both blade and drive train capabilities will have the capacity for further expansion, to 180 metres and 28MW respectively, to meet future industry demand.

Supporting growth of UK supply chains

The new facilities will enable faster product development of turbines through test, validation and certification.

They are expected to prevent 2.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions by accelerating deployment by a minimum of eight-months. This means more of the energy keeping our lights on and heating our homes is from an eco-friendly source.

They will also support the growth of UK supply chains and provide critical research infrastructure to support inward investment into the UK wind industry. They will also create 30 new jobs in Blyth and support five PhDs a year.

Strengthens UK’s energy security

Science, Innovation and Research Minister, Andrew Griffith, said:

Putting pioneering innovation at the heart of the UK’s transition to net zero is the key to protecting our environment in a way which continues to lift living standards.

Our £86m funding will create highly skilled and highly paid new jobs that grow the north-east and wider UK economies while pulling investment in by marking our country as a leader on technologies of the future and unashamedly open for business.

At the same time, it strengthens the UK’s energy security in an uncertain world and helps us pivot towards the cleaner energy that can preserve our planet for generations to come.

World-class places to live and work

Dr Adam Staines, UKRI Infrastructure Portfolio Director, said:

UKRI continues to make the vital infrastructure investments that will underpin innovation and research throughout the UK for the coming decades.

The project in Blyth demonstrates that investment in the right infrastructure can reduce CO2, support greater energy independence and drive economic benefits that build world-class places to live and work, as well.

Working across UKRI with Innovate UK’s Catapult Network and the wider supply chain will help achieve these crucial objectives.

At the forefront of offshore wind technology

Andrew Jamieson, ORE Catapult Chief Executive, said:

This investment in truly world-leading capability will keep the UK at the forefront of offshore wind technology development.

It will enable ORE Catapult to continue to deliver the most advanced research and development infrastructure and expertise to the offshore wind industry, capturing the jobs and economic growth from the transition to a Net Zero economy.

Accelerating global decarbonisation

Richard Sandford, Co-Chair of the Offshore Wind Industry Council, said:

I’m delighted that ORE Catapult has deservedly secured this significant level of investment from UKRI’s Infrastructure Fund which will help to maintain Britain’s leading position in offshore wind.

It will enable ORE Catapult to continue to develop state-of-the-art turbine technology, building on its excellent track record of leadership in innovation.

The blades and drive trains which will be tested by world-class experts in Blyth are expected to make UK offshore wind projects even more cost-competitive, and see supply chain companies exporting this technology overseas, adding value to the UK’s economy and helping to accelerate the pace of global decarbonisation.

Boosting UK economy

Dan McGrail, RenewableUK CEO, said:

Investing in ground-breaking research to develop the next generation of turbines is vital if this country is to retain its position as a global trailblazer in innovative offshore wind technology in the face of strong international competition.

Last month we launched an Industrial Growth Plan for offshore wind which shows how proactively focussing on high-value components such as blades will boost the UK’s economy by £25 billion and support an extra 10,000 jobs over the next ten years.

We have an excellent opportunity to build up new offshore wind supply chains, and the cutting-edge work being done by our colleagues at ORE Catapult will help us to achieve this.

Further information

Designs are well advanced with a view to commencing construction in the near future at the Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth of the new blade testing facility. This will be alongside the existing 100 metres blade test hall, and the major upgrade to its 15MW drive train test facility, with both expected to be fully commissioned by 2028.

This project helps address UKRI’s ‘Building a green future’ strategic theme, one of five UKRI-wide initiatives aiming to harness the full power of the UK’s research and innovation system to tackle large-scale, complex challenges.

Working with others, UKRI aims to accelerate the green economy by supporting research and innovation that delivers on national priorities and unlocks solutions essential to achieving net zero in the UK by 2050.

Top image:  Credit: ORE Catapult

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